Compete is a Verb

In retail, every day is a new day.  With each sunrise, your competitors are thinking of ways to steal your customers and employees, take away your sales, and, in general, put you out of business.  Every day a business owner has to think of ways to move her business forward – better customer service, products, and prices and new and innovative ways to make the business relevant and indispensable to your customers.

One of my favorite retail blogs to read is written by Kevin Coupe.  It is an excellent source for news, analysis, and opinion covering the food retailing industry.  It is educational and entertaining reading.

One of Kevin’s favorite sayings is that “compete is a verb”.  I love this.  It succinctly states what should be one of the top three philosophies that each retailer should have in addition to caring about employees and making the world a better place.

To compete does not mean that you have to be as combative or cut throat as I allude to in my opening paragraph.  I believe that nice guys can finish first.  I really do.

But, if you are not competing then you are being left behind.

Competition can be positive things: providing a service that makes your customer’s life easier; offering products that make you stand out from your competitors; provide such outstanding customer service that your customers feel like they are the most special people on the face of the earth.  How hard can it be?

Unfortunately, 99% of the time, if you can offer a product or service, so can your competitors.  They may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but that is not going to cut it in the retail world.  Everyday we need to be coming up with ways to make our offer exclusive to us.  This is done by either continually tweaking our offer or by adding new components that keep us one step ahead of the competition.

(I’m going to leave it without saying that I am just assuming that outstanding customer service is a part of every retail offer that you are providing.)

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “You can never step into the same river twice.”  I think that this is the same thing for the retail industry.  Every day our customers and the market are changing.  New trends come up and old ones die.  Economic circumstances improve and decline.  Technology creates new opportunities and kills off old ones.  What was successful yesterday won’t work today and will be forgotten tomorrow.

The best retailers are always launching new products and ideas.  Not all of them will be successful.  The ones that are successful will be kept. The ones that aren’t should be learned from so that either mistakes won’t be repeated or tweaks will be made for a relaunch.  Regardless, they aren’t standing still.  And neither should you.

So how do we find out what we need to do to stay competitive?  For the answer to that question, you will need to read my next post.